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Grading the Defense: Week 12

It wasn’t the worst effort but it wasn’t the best either.

NCAA Football: Memphis at Cincinnati Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Losing 34-7 doesn’t produce visions of defensive dominance. The Cincinnati Bearcats lost by just that score on Friday night against Memphis and although the offense didn’t exactly make the game competitive, the defense didn’t dominate either.

That sentiment has been broken record that has been the soundtrack of the UC program this season, with the offense doing nothing and the defense playing relatively well but not well enough to get a win. Here’s the individual unit breakdowns.

Defensive line

The good: Freshman Bryan Wright continues to be a nice surprise in a lost season. He had six tackles, including 1.5 for loss in this setback. He has 25 total tackles and four for loss this season, despite playing in only seven games. Redshirt freshman Caleb Ashworth also made some plays for a young line that could be very good in the years to come, recording his second sack of the season. Additionally, the Tigers didn’t have many runs that went much further than the line, averaging only 3.2 yards per carry.

The bad: Ashworth’s sack was the only one of the game for the Bearcats, who may have made plenty of tackles behind the line, but didn’t do much in terms of creating pressure on Memphis quarterbacks. Defensive tackle Alex Pace was caught holding as well.

Final grade: C+

Linebackers

The good: Eric Wilson returned to form, racking up 12 tackles (1.5 for loss) and a forced fumble. Wilson, who has an American Athletic Conference leading 116 tackles this season and has had double digit stops in each of the last two weeks. Senior Antonio Kinard continued his strong season with another nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss.

The bad: Despite Wilson and Kinard’s nose for the ball, they also didn’t help the pass rush much. Wilson was also flagged for an unsportsmanlike penalty while Mike Tyson committed a pass interference infraction. In addition, no other linebacker really made much of an impact, with Jaylyin Minor finishing with only two tackles.

Final grade: C+

Secondary

The good: Zach Edwards was solid both in bringing opponents down (11 tackles including 1.5 for loss) and defending the pass, breaking up two throws. The Tigers also finished with only 159 yards through the air.

The bad: Although the Tigers didn’t pick up much in the passing game, they also completed most of the passes they did throw with Jason Stewart and Riley Ferguson (who left the game with an injury) combining to complete 16-of-20 pass attempts for two touchdowns. Carter Jacobs drew a whistle for a personal foul as well.

Final grade: C+

Overall

Its difficult to fault the Bearcats since they only let up 331 yards of total offense and Memphis started four drives inside the UC 40-yard line. Turnovers by the offense led to 17 points, which is another thing that the defense cannot be entirely blamed for. However, failing to force much in terms of pressure and creating just one turnover helped Memphis control the game and play at a pace at which it was comfortable. Plus there was the fact that the Tigers converted on half of their third down attempts (8-of-16). In all it was a decent effort, but a sloppy one and once again, thanks to the poor play of the offense, not enough to win. Really hoping whoever’s DJing right now will take this song off repeat.

Final grade: C+